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Legal Research: the result of a long history

Note: See the pdf version of the 2012-2013 Annual Report (in French) for the documents mentioned in this text.

The work done by the Centre de recherche en droit public (CRDP) since its foundation in 1962 has focused on contemporary forms of law and conditions underlying its emergence as well as its relations with other forms of normativity and social regulation. Naturally, our research perspectives have changed over the decades. While the CRDP's mission in its first years was to "promote and perform research on public law, particularly constitutional and administrative law", it gradually expanded to encompass a wide range of issues and themes in contemporary law.
During its first 20 years, the CRDP's researchers mainly studied development of Québec government and evolution of public law, particularly in the field of administrative law. At the time, the CRDP's innovative research concentrated on regional administrative structures and on law pertaining to health care, higher education, radio and television, new states' right to declare sovereignty, etc.
In the 1980's, the CRDP's work followed social and technological changes, and turned toward emerging norms in medical ethics, which led to study the emergence of norms in biomedical and genetic technologies. Research was also done on the ethical, legal and social issues raised by xenotransplants, which fostered the study of relations between human and animal and as well as between environment and law. Expanding beyond the study of radio and broadcasting law, our work in this field led to research on new communication technologies, which resulted in the publication of the first French-language treatise on cyberspace law. Other projects were related to protection of digitalized personal information, management of disputes arising on the Internet, electronic commerce, democratization of access to law and advent of online government services and justice. In parallel, our investigations in legal theory were directed toward the conditions for emergence of new social and legal normativities.  Inspired by legal pluralism theories, the CRDP's empirical and theoretical research dealt with ideological stakes involved in judicial decisions, legal and political forms of Aboriginal governance, contemporary forms of public action, judicial handling of social problems and effects of contemporary ethno-cultural diversity on legal norms. Since 2003, these themes have been grouped into three major research areas: Law and New Social Relations, Law and Information and Communication Technologies, and Law, Biotechnology and Community. Last year, the grant has been renewed and the two last research areas are now untitled: Law and Information and Communication Technologies, and Law, Biotechnology and Environment. The Regroupement itself had added an important link and is now the Regroupement Droit, changements et gouvernance. The second axis is named Law and information, and communication technologies, and the third is Law and biotechnology and environment. This report consists in an update on the research projects currently conducted in one or the other of these research areas.
1. Publications and knowledge sharing

In 2012-2013, CRDP’s 15 main researchers contributed to the writing or publication of 21 books. They published 28 academic articles and 76 contributions to collective works, research reports, conference proceedings and other texts. Moreover, they gave 109 academic conferences. As for the Center's students and research officers, they published or co-published 2 books, authored or co-authored 4 contributions to collective works, 4 academic articles, 6 research reports and other texts. They were also involved in 8 academic conferences. Given students and researchers' combined contributions and publications, the CRDP published, in 2012-2013, 23 books, 36 book chapters, 42 academic articles and 31 publications of other types (contributions to conference proceedings, research reports, etc.). Finally, th
e Center's researchers, students and research officers gave 117 conferences (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Scientific production 2012-2013

Update on scientific activities with which CRDP's students and researchers are associated also has to take into account events organized by the Center and its various components, such as the L.R. Wilson Chair in Information Technology and E-Commerce Law, the Jean-Monnet Chair in European Union Law, the Canadian Research Chair in Law and Medicine, the Canada Research Chair in North American and Comparative Juridical and Cultural Identities, the Chair in Business Law and International Trade and the Université de Montréal’s Chair of excellence in E-Commerce and Security Law. All around, the CRDP organized 48 academic events, colloquies, conferences and seminars in 2012-2013. Moreover, 10 academic articles signed by authors from around the world were published in CRDP's journal, Lex Electronica.

2. Education and training

Training of both graduate and undergraduate students, as well as the mission of developing all future scientific succession are addressed in a myriad of ways at the CRDP. The Center’s main researchers are being called upon to supervise a growing number of students as training programs change, both at the Faculty of Law and in other fields, such as medicine, pharmacology, computer science, sociology, anthropology, criminology, philosophy, applied ethics and applied human sciences. CRDP researchers direct and co-direct graduate studies programs in electronic commerce and applied human sciences, as well as teach in various PhD and Master’s programs offered at the Faculty of Law. Accordingly, in 2012-2013, the Center's researchers supervised 6 post-doctoral researchers, 68 PhD students (2 of whom submitted their dissertation) and 80 MA students (13 of whom submitted their thesis). A researcher also oversaw the internships of 1 student. In total, 155 students benefited from the supervision of CRDP's researchers (Annex 3).

Figure 2: Supervised students in various cycles

A list of the MA thesis and PhD dissertations submitted in 2012-2013 or currently in the process of being written is provided in Annex 3. Supervision of thesis and dissertations is supported by the development of training programs based on our biotechnology and information and communications technologies research areas.

In addition to supervising students' academic progress, we also provide training that is just as essential to producing a new generation of researchers, that is, the day-to-day supervision of 64 students employed as research assistants by the CRDP's researchers, as well as 5 research officers who are almost all enrolled in graduate studies at the Université de Montréal.  Finally, this data does not take into account students trained by associate researchers and contributors from the Regroupement Droit, changements et gouvernance, whose training often flows from research projects initiated by the CRDP.

Finally, in 2012-2013, the CRDP contributed to the financial support of many students. The Center awarded 40 writing and financial relief grants to students in order to help them in their studies, 16 from the Regroupement droit, changements et gouvernance, 13 from Towards Cyberjustice, and 3 from la Chaire Jean-Monnet en droit de l'Union européenne. In all, 8.287 was given out to students through grants and financial assistance. Salaries paid to research assistants and officers complete this overview of the Center’s allocation of funds to students.

3. Evolution of research funding

CRDP's main researchers are concurrently conducting around fifty research projects. These projects regard a wide range of themes and issues related to our research areas. From Aboriginal law to the right to the respect of private life, from biotechnology law to international law, the themes’ diversity reflects the complementary nature of the expertise developed at the Center.

This diversity, along with the multiplicity of our projects, also shows ongoing evolution in our research, which is the fruit of major scientific collaboration among CRDP’s main researchers, associate researchers and contributors. There are certain clear trends in the CRDP's activities: first, the diversity of the institutions to which the Center’s researchers belong; second, the internationalization of many projects which were initially started in Québec; and third, the growing importance of knowledge transfer activities.  Note also that in recent years the CRDP has provided the framework for major scientific collaborations. In particular, it has been the case with respect to the Regroupement Droit, changementset gouvernance as well as important research consortiums, such as Indigenous Peoples and Governance, and P3G. The CRDP also creates an environment conducive to the setting up of new research structures, chairs, watches and laboratories, among which are the Observatoire du Droit à la justice and the Cyberjustice Laboratory. Finally, the proportion of funds the CRDP is called upon to administer for or transfer to researchers of other universities is constantly growing owing to agreements among universities, particularly with respect to major research consortiums.

4. The CRDP: a research infrastructure

First and foremost, the CRDP provides a framework for cooperation among researchers as well as among researchers and students. Since 2004, this function has been especially strengthened thanks to the CRDP's designation as a strategic group by the Fonds québécois de recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC). The relevance of a center such as the CRDP is demonstrated primarily by its ability to bring researchers and research projects together. The interdisciplinary nature of our work furthers constant interactions among research activities in law. This pooling of competencies and perspectives is made possible thanks to the Université de Montréal and the Faculty of Law’s support, but it is also due to the long tradition of cooperation within scientific communities.

Furthermore, the CRDP's researchers can count on the support of a very experienced administrative staff; a team specialized in the management of major research fundings as well as numerous specialists in electronic communications. The CRDP's achievements also depend on the work of a stable research team that includes approximately 100 research professionals, officers and assistants. This important body of collaborators plays a major part in the CRDP's capacity to act as a catalyst for research in such a wide range of aspects of contemporary law.

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